aha moment, answers, assumptions, balance, being a teacher, believe, change, education, education reform, educators, elementary, hopes, inspiration, invest, school staff, talented, teachers, teaching

Bring Out the Experts

The education community loves experts. Experts are flown in, bussed in, and wined and dined. If you are an expert on something chances are there is a school that wants to pay you for sharing your thoughts. In fact, you don’t even have to claim to be an expert, others will often bestow that title upon you as a favor. After all, how else will your expense be excused? So I wonder, how does one become an expert, after all, aren’t we all just humble learners?

The word expert is tinged with weight. To be an expert you must be not just knowledgable, but also an authority. Yet who decides when one is an authority? Does it need a book deal? A huge following? Or someone else who is an expert to look at you kindly? Who decides who the experts are?

We are quick to bring in outside experts whenever there is a need but often I wonder who could we have turned to on-site? Who at this school could already have shared that same information at a fraction of the price? Who at this school could have had the opportunity to teach others, much as we teach our students every day. I consider myself lucky being surrounded by experts every day. I find myself among some incredible educators that work hard to bring their expertise into the classrooms to benefit the students. Isn’t it time for all of us to recognize the experts among us?

I dare to propose that we are all experts. Although not world known, or even known outside of our small circles, yet we are knowledgable of something particular, something that we can claim authority on. And so consider this; at school you are indeed surrounded by experts. Whether they are experts at teaching the civil war, grammar, haikus or how to dribble, they have deep intimate knowledge that they can pass on to others. So share your expertise with others, go ahead open up and discuss what you know you are good at. We have to get better at celebrating each others knowledge, each others succeses, simply each other. We are all experts, how will you foster expertise?

attention, being a teacher, invest, questions, students

Start Asking Questions

You know the kid, usually a boy, tap, tap, tapping his foot. Gets up, gets something, sits down and then taps taps taps some more. Then whatever he is tapping breaks so he falls out of his chair trying to get something out of his desk. By this time, you are not talking anymore, simply staring as this child as he continues to fiddle,stare out the window, and tap, tap, tap.

So you go to your team and whisper ADHD, not for sure, but someone better check. Has this been a prior concern? Are there records? How would parents react? Never once do we stop to ask the kid why he taps, or rarely anyway. We don’t ask “Why do you blurt? Why do you interrupt? Why are you so exhausted and exhausting?” Instead, we assume. We know, after all, we have seen them before. We are the experts, we know kids, this is our job.

But what if we did ask? What if that boy said that I don’t like my chair because it is uncomfortable? Or how about, when the teacher talks too much, I lose interest because I want to do, to touch, to experience, and not just listen and regurgitate information.

Is your classroom set up for tap, tap, tapping? Is it set up for kids getting out of their seats? For the boy fiddling? For the girl staring out the window? Or for those kids we label because maybe some meds will probably do the trick? When do we stop assuming and start asking questions? When will we realize that we do not have all of the answers and some times we have to ask the students? I think that time has come.

believe, choices, community, connect, education, educators, honesty, hopes, inspiration, invest, leader, learning, life choices, Mentor, promise, reform, Superman, teaching, trust

I am the Reform

I am the reform when I trust other teachers.

I am the reform when I stand united, and not divided.

I am the reform when I discuss, assess, and learn with my students.

I am the reform when I trust in others.

I am the reform when I ask for observation, feedback, and growth opportunities.

I am the reform when I discuss, even with people with whom I disagree.

I am the reform when I reflect, reject and reinvent.

I am the reform when I ask for help.

I am the reform when I learn more.

I am the reform when I am not afraid.

I am the reform when I listen and I speak.

I am the reform when I believe.

Are you the reform?

being a teacher, energy, invest, students

Invest in Yourself

I am nothing special.  Just a teacher trying her hardest in making her students believe that they too can be something.  That they too can move mountains, change the world, be somebody.  A small quest but a meaningful one.  Some call me an idealist, others overly optimistic, but I think of myself as human.  I believe in those kids entrusted to me.  I believe in their passion, their desire to learn, their ability to learn.  I work too many hours, I wonder, think, digest their learning, their skills, their failures.  I take responsibility, I beat myself up if a lesson fails and I celebrate loudly with my students when they triumph.  I live life fully in my classroom, embracing all of the emotions of life, investing myself into my this classroom, making sure my students know the true Mrs. Ripp, warts and all. 

The reward is immense.  My students tell me about themselves.  They show me their work.  They trust me with themselves.  The setbacks are also big, though.  I can be on an emotional rollercoaster due to the mood of my classroom.  I can work too many hours and not get enough sleep.  I can obsess over lessons, obsess over a student’s situation that is out of my control, and I can beat myself up over not being good enough, there enough, just not being enough.  So last night my husband told me that I was working too much, missing out on moments with my 21 month old daughter.  And he is right.  With all the changes that have occurred in my classroom, this has been by far the most work I have ever put in for the first 7 weeks of school.  I am glad I have put in the hours, I am glad I have invested myself but the balance has been bumped somehow.  The balance of life and teacher has been tilted in the wrong way and I am feeling drained, listless, and just plain old tired.

So instead of complaining about it, I am realizing this is normal.  When you invest everything you have into your classroom, you sometimes forget to keep a little for yourself.  So while I do live for this job, for these kids, I also have to live my life.  I must allow myself to go home at the end of the day sometimes with no work to do.  I must allow myself to take the weekend off and not go into my classroom to do more.  I must allow myself to live, just as I hope my students do, when I do not assing them another worksheet.

To be the best teacher I can be, I must also be the best person I can be.  And that person needs her family more than anything else in the world.  Without time with my family, I lose my base, my sanity, and that affects everything else.  So this weekend I plan on going to the farm and picking a pumpkin with my daughter.  I plan on petting the goats, reading a book, and cooking dinner.  I plan on listening to my husband when he speaks and maybe even going grocery shopping.  And I will relish these ordinary life moments, come back renewed, rejuvenated and ready again to invest in my kids.  After all, they deserve the best me that I can be, and so do I.